With just a few days left in the regular season, two members of the Wright clan are assured a spot in the saddle bronc riding at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Those two members happen to be Cody’s sons, Rusty and Ryder.
It’s no surprise that they are ranked in the top five of the world standings as each of them has had a stellar season. Their uncle-in-law CoBurn Bradshaw is in good shape at 11th with $88,462. Realistically, there is not enough money left over the final weekend for five guys to win to move him out.
Jake Wright is 12th at $81,903, which looks pretty good as well. His younger brother Spencer is the one that is sweating right now. Spencer, the 2014 world champion, is in 15th place with $73,767. Spencer has been traveling this year with Rusty and Ryder and for the final few days of the season they will be hitting the trail trying to add as much to their bank accounts as they can before the NFR starts on December 8th.
After winning the gold buckle last December, Ryder’s season got off to a slow start. He didn’t have the luck at the big building rodeos that he had hoped for and as of the first of March he was 20th in the world standings. One month later he was 14th. He moved up a spot in May and again in June. By the lucrative “Cowboy Christmas” over the Fourth-of-July he was 8th.
That’s when Ryder’s momentum began to build and it has just kept building. After Cowboy Christmas, he had $61,447 and has since added another $100,000 to that. That doesn’t include the $100,000 he won at the Calgary Stampede on July 16.
The list of wins that has happened since then is impressive. On July 21st he won the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho. The next day he was crowned champion at California Rodeo Salinas. In August, he was co-champion at the Caldwell Night Rodeo, then won the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick, Washington. During the final month of the season he has collected wins at the Washington State Fair Rodeo in Puyallup and the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas.
“I guess you could say it’s been pretty good,” Ryder said. “There were times when I could have drawn better, and times I could have ridden better. But that’s rodeo. I feel like I have a lot of momentum going with me right now. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Last February, it still hadn’t sunk in that Ryder was the world champion. And while he does wear his gold buckle now, he still rides with a buckle from high school. Watching him in the arena, it’s hard to believe that he is just over two years away from that high school graduation.
In the past two years, Ryder has won nine go-rounds at the NFR. Just three more and he’ll have enough buckles to make the numbers in a clock that his dad suggested. This year’s race for the gold buckle promises to be one of the most exciting in recent history. If Ryder finishes on top of the world standings on December 15th, he will be the first man to win back-to-back gold buckles in more than a decade.
Billy Etbauer won world championships in 1999 and 2000. He also holds the record of single-event round wins in Las Vegas at 51. He qualified for his first NFR when he was 26 and won his first world title three years later. If Ryder stays healthy and keeps up the pace that he has started, Etbauer’s records are in definite jeopardy.
“I think the sky is the limit for Ryder and all of my kids,” Cody said. “We started working on goals when they were little and have kept them setting goals and working towards them as they have grown up. What Ryder has already accomplished hasn’t surprised any of us, but it has been fun to watch.”
Next week, the final spots for this year’s NFR will be determined. Who enters the NFR in first place in the saddle bronc riding is also anyone’s guess. It is likely to be Jacobs Crawley or Ryder Wright, but Isaac Diaz and Rusty Wright have something to say about that too.
“It’s not as important to me, or any of the other guts where we start,” Rusty said. “I’m much more focused on where I finish.”
And up to that time, Rusty, Ryder, and Spencer are going to be getting on any horse that they think will get them a paycheck and taking it ride by ride. There focus of the traveling partners is securing Spencer’s qualification and earning as much money as they can.
“There are enough people paying attention to the standings,” Ryder said. “They let us know where we are all the time. The competition sure makes it fun and I think it makes all of us ride better.”
It makes it better for those watching as well!